The closure of yet more TSB banks will leave “another ugly gap on the high street”, according to one of the north-east’s top business experts.
Earlier this week TSB announced the closure of four more branches across the north of Scotland, just months after 17 of its sites shut their doors for the final time.
Bosses at the firm – which is closing 70 banks nationwide as part of the latest raft of cuts to services – blamed the impact of Covid-19 and a move away from traditional banking in favour of online services.
Instead, they plan to improve TSB’s digital offering, although they described the decision to close the branches as an “incredibly difficult decision”.
TSB closures leave ‘ugly gap’
However, experts have hit back at the chain and accused it of “abandoning” its customers, including businesses and the elderly.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) fears the latest round of closures will have a knock-on effect on businesses in the towns affected.
“Ultimately, these changes will make it more difficult to run a business in much of Scotland but they will also leave another ugly gap on a high streets and in our town centres,” said David Groundwater, the organisation’s development manager for the north-east.
“While many small businesses use online banking, that doesn’t mean they don’t handle cash, and therefore need to visit a branch.
“Swift action is now needed from policymakers to defend our remaining local financial infrastructure; to bring empty premises back to use; and to oversee the deployment of alternative facilities for left behind places and customers.”
Cuts affect vulnerable residents
Campaigners have also raised concerns about the “disproportionate” impact of the cuts on vulnerable and elderly residents, who may be less comfortable with digital banking – or could be unable to use it at all.
Age Scotland claimed the closures would lead to “banking deserts” across the north.
TSB has previously introduced pop-up banks in areas where it has closed branches, and both Thurso and Fort William are set to be added to the scheme.
But there are fears those will prove to be a poor replacement for the closed banks.
“This announcement suggests that TSB is putting profits ahead of serving customers,” said Age Scotland chief executive Brian Sloan.
“Many towns and villages have already lost their local branch or Post Office in recent years, and this could lead to more banking deserts across the north of Scotland.
“We know that the way people bank is changing, but it’s vital not to leave older and more vulnerable people behind.
“Pop-up banks in communities can provide a valuable service, but they often only operate one day a week. We’d like to see banks coming together to offer shared banking hubs, with several sharing the costs between them.”